A Guide To Ulcerative Colitis

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What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disorder that causes digestive tract inflammation. Effects are usually confined to the rectum and lining of the large intestine, also known as the colon. Symptoms may be mild or severe. Although they can persist throughout life, they do not necessarily worsen over time.

Ulcerative colitis is relatively rare. About 1 million Americans are affected, with whites at highest risk.

Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms and Associated Conditions

Ulcerative colitis is one of several inflammatory bowel diseases. Together, IBDs affect several million Americans, even though ulcerative colitis is uncommon. Ulcerative colitis diagnosis starts with a series of tests to rule out conditions that cause similar symptoms.

Common ulcerative colitis symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Rectal pain with potential bleeding
  • Inability to defecate despite need to
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss

Ulcerative colitis clinical studies have shown variations in dozens of different genes may contribute to risk. However, these risk factors are not well understood. You are more likely to develop the disorder if you have a parent or sibling with ulcerative colitis, but it is not guaranteed.

People with ulcerative colitis have an elevated risk for colon cancer. This risk increases over time. With this in mind, ulcerative colitis patients get an increased number of colon cancer screenings as they age. The prognosis for colon cancer is best when it is detected early.

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Ulcerative Colitis Medication and Treatments

Ulcerative colitis treatment consists of a variety of approaches. Most patients can control their symptoms with ulcerative colitis drugs. In general, ulcerative colitis surgery is reserved for the most severe cases and those in which standard ulcerative colitis medication is ineffective.

5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA) drugs are the most common ulcerative colitis medications. Corticosteroids are used for short-term treatment of moderate symptoms. Severe cases receive immunomodulators, which reduce inflammation but slow the body’s immune response.

Surgery can be used to remove damaged areas of the digestive tract. In profound cases, ulcerative colitis may be eliminated by removing the colon and rectum completely, a procedure called proctocolectomy.

Ulcerative Colitis Recovery and Lifestyle Changes

There is no cure for ulcerative colitis. However, sufferers may go weeks or even months without severe symptoms. Relatively brief periods of intense symptoms are called “flare-ups,” and recognizing one’s own flare-up triggers is essential to ulcerative colitis lifestyle changes.

Diet alone is not a treatment for ulcerative colitis. However, many patients reduce intake of certain foods that can be harsh on the digestive tract. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation recommends eating small meals and limiting lactose, sugar, and high-fat foods.

Ulcerative Colitis Medical Research

A recent Stanford study indicated missing microbes in the intestines may be partly to blame for ulcerative colitis. In healthy quantities, these microbes generate protective anti-inflammatory agents. This is only the start of questions about the link between ulcerative colitis and gut health.

Much medical research on ulcerative colitis focuses on the human immune system. Because populations with access to high-fat foods are much more likely than others to get the disorder, dietary factors are also under investigation.

Current Ulcerative Colitis Clinical Trials

The following list includes all current ulcerative colitis clinical trials registered with ClinicalTrials.gov. You can request additions to this list. To report a new ulcerative colitis clinical trial, just contact our team.


An ulcerative colitis cure might take several years to develop, but many current treatments show promise in long-term control of flare-ups. Ulcerative colitis sufferers and their close family members can advance the search for a cure for ulcerative colitis by participating in inflammatory bowel disease clinical trials.

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